Suspicious Items Were Headed For Chicago Synagogues

UPDATED 10/29/10 5:57 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Two suspicious packages containing explosives were intercepted on their way from Yemen to Chicago, authorities said Friday. President Barack Obama said authorities had uncovered a “credible terrorist threat.”

Federal officials say two packages from Yemen that contained explosives were intercepted while still overseas. Both packages originated from Yemen and were addressed to two Chicago synagogues.

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One package was shipped through FedEx and was intercepted in Dubai. FedEx has told CBS 2 News that the suspicious package that tested positive for explosives never made it onto a FedEx plane. The package was detected by FedEx at its package handling facility in Dubai.

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The second package was discovered aboard a UPS cargo plane in East Midlands, north of London, and contained a printer toner cartridge with wires and powder (pictured above). It was found during routine screening of cargo in England, prompting authorities to scour three planes and a truck in the United States on Friday, U.S. officials said.

“They were not letters, they were larger than that; think bread boxes or so, in terms of size,” said White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan. “We don’t know yet how they were intended to be activated. There are a number of things we know and we’re piecing together those puzzle pieces and working very closely with the British and Emirate authorities. At this point, there is a lot of forensic work that needs to be done.”

The white powder, according to law enforcement sources, was the same substance used by the Christmas Day bomber flying into Detroit. Its called TATP; it is explosive but needs an ignition source to become a bomb.

President Barack Obama said Friday afternoon that authorities had uncovered a “credible terrorist threat” against the United States and that initial examination of the two packages determined that they contained explosive materials.

Obama said the packages originated in Yemen and were apparently bound for places of Jewish worship in Chicago.

The events “underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism,” the president said. The packages both originated in Yemen, but Obama did not assign blame to al-Qaida, which is active in the Arab nation and long has made clear its goal of attacking the United States.

Indications were that the goal was psychological, rather than physical damage.

“Certainly was a simple attempt to disrupt rather than a dry run. And i think it was an indication of the tremendous expenses which we are bearing in order to prevent ourselves from being struck by terrorists in order to protect the security of the American people,” University of Chicago professor Marvin Zonis said. “Certainly, it’s psychological terrorism. The goal is to disrupt us, to frighten us, but it isn’t the endgame. They’d rather get an explosive into our country and blow up some people, kill some people.”

The discoveries led to emergency cargo plane checks in Philadelphia and Newark Friday morning.

UPS cargo planes which reportedly contained packages from Yemen were taken to isolated areas of both Newark’s Liberty International Airport, and Philadelphia’s international Airport, where they were thoroughly searched before being allowed to continue their trips.

Another suspicious package was discovered on a truck crossing one of the bridges into New York City.

In Chicago, cargo terminals for both UPS and FedEx at O’Hare International Airport were immediately swept with bomb-sniffing dogs, and security around them was tightened as well.

There was no evidence found that any explosives reached Chicago or that they could have caused any damage if they did.

The events unfolded four days before national elections in which discussion of terrorism has played almost no role.

Obama said the U.S. is taking steps to enhance the safety of air travel, including beefing up cargo screening.

Obama told reporters Friday that he was alerted to the threat Thursday night and that he directed the Homeland Security Department and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps were necessary to protect American citizens.

He said additional protective measures will be taken for as long as necessary to ensure safety and security in this country.

Officials suspect a link with al-Qaida.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago was notified of the situation at 10:30 a.m. Friday, and officials there are “taking proper precautions,” said associate vice president Linda Haase.

The organization is also advising local synagogues to take precautions, Haase said.

A law enforcement source tells CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine the word is out to synagogues in Chicago not to accept UPS packages from east of New York. The are asked to call Chicago Police if any delivery is attempted.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice added that while there are no identifiable or specific threats to the Chicago area, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the area are being warned to be vigilant for unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations.

Obama was notified of the potential terrorist threat Thursday evening, and “directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “The president has received regular updates from his national security team since he was alerted to the threat.”

The president was going ahead with plans to head home to Chicago on Saturday for a political rally for local Democratic candidates. The synagogue near his Hyde Park home isn’t one of those targeted in the plot, so authorities saw no need to cancel his travel plans.

“Whenever the president travels we take a very careful look at what the threat environment might be,” Brennan said. “At this point there is no effect (to Obama’s plans).”

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine, The Associated Press and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More from Mike Krauser
  • Mor

    These are probably “test” shipments to see if they get through.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    The religion of peace strikes again.

    • McGannahan Skjellyfetti

      Since when is Zionism a religion or for peace?

      • never forget

        you sound like the posterboy for planned parenthood!

    • John C

      looks like we passed the test – this time……

    • mark

      Yes, “by way of deception…” is their motto….

  • FL Girl

    Funny that there is no mention as to whether or not the Chicago Synogogues actually ordered any toner or who sent it.

  • shane013a

    Then again it could have been a test of the security of the “network” we may be missing an informant or two now.

  • Fesshead

    Notice how they stoped the threat right before the election. Is the Democrats “Asprin Factory” moment?

    • Steve DeMarcus

      It ain’t gonna work either now is it?

  • SK

    Israel hasn’t raided the west bank in years. You are confusing PLO controlled west bank with hamas controlled Gaza.

  • Dave

    Note to self: Don’t order cheap toner on eBay.

    • Phil

      LOL indeed!

  • Hank

    I bet the whole ordeal cost 1 billion dollars. This global police state is getting real expensive isn’t it?!

    • ablubud

      Our insane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost a billion dollars every three days.

    • On The Other Hand

      What R nU saying? You prefer the alternative of no help internationally?

    • m

      yeah, that idiot doesn’t realize the global police crushed hitler, mussolini, japan, the alien invasion, with reagan at the helm and his pet monkey, george senior, CIA hero, took down the kafirs and the falafels who want to suck the precious goo from our babies hearts. France won’t be making wine, just croissants (you know, crescents!) good thing sarcofocoski is a ‘helper’. that guy’s a jerk, he doesn’t understand that MOHAMMED (blessed be his name) can make steel towers fall at freefall speed though it’s never happened before or since. god is great, we must stop him.

  • myze

    lets see who would send package of something that looks like explosives to a jewish synagouege????

    Wonder what Joy Behar thinks??? If anyone says it might be coming from a Muslim country or from a muslim person he will walk out on you.

    I hear Rosie believes it came from “Christian Extremists” !!!

  • cuthean

    That’s a shame. Please pass me the dinner rolls.

  • paul

    All this is happening, watching it, and in all seriousness, I’m not surprised. I’m not caught off guard, in fact, I was telling myself, it’s just a matter of time…

  • gmroper

    You are dispicable.

    • mgroper

      That’s beside the point, besides how did you find out?

    • Mik

      What’s your argument for that statement?

  • anonyman

    if someone suggest it was muslims or islam related, Im going to walk off the set

  • m

    you are confusing a legal naval blockade on international waters where when Israeli soldiers attempted to legally search a ship suspected of carrying arms illegally into Gaza,
    with an attack in the middle of the night which specifically targeted specific protesters for execution.

    • Big Red

      It isn’t legal to stop a ship on the high seas and murder the passengers,including a 19 year old American kid. Israel has no legally declared blockade of Palestine and what they did was another(one of many) violation of international law! Remember the U.S.S. Liberty! 34 American sailors murdered,174 wounded by Israel!

  • The Citizen Sane

    I say we need to “reach out” to these terrorist…how about a party in Yemen with FREE PORK CHOPS AND BEER!!!!…then we can have a coloring contest and give prizes for the best pictures of muhammad!!!!

  • m

    wow, so all anyone, and i mean anyone, would need to do, to destroy their enemy would be to throw a stone at a giant and then point the finger at someone they don’t like? maybe it might work, say if someone dressed up in the religious clothes of that people and said radical things, made crazy pronouncements against the giant just to get the giant to attack their enemy? think that might work?

    • Diction

      “m”: Not, I don’t think it would work. What does the “m” stand for? Hmmmmmmm.

  • inkquisitor

    Imagine the outrage had hese packages been sent to a Mosque? Does anyone believe that the targets, namely Jewish houses of worship and Chicago were random? Muslims are in a war against the Jews and thy specifically targeted Chicago as a way to send a message to Obama.

  • dinner roll

    Oh well. Better luck next time.

  • Mike

    It’s very interesting that they targeted Jews….in Chicago! It just proves the point that the Arabs are not fighting Israel over land. This incident once again proves that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a Muslim war against Jews. Too bad. After all, we have the same great-great…great Grandpa: Abraham. I wonder what he would say?

    • Mik

      You need to get your history from elsewhere than the Jerusalem Post

  • Pete

    Mosques too ? Maybe better to be safe than sorry but I really doubt the targets of these extremists would be their “brothers” .

    “FBI spokesman Ross Rice added that while there are no identifiable or specific threats to the Chicago area, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the area are being warned to be vigilant for unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations.”

  • Auntie Pasto

    It’s too bad Jimmy Carter stopped production of the neutron bomb.

  • Werner

    watchya doin rabbi?

  • Rufus Levin

    Early Hannukah Presents for Rahm.

  • Lynne Teinert

    Call Joy Behar and Whoopi and PBS. There MIGHT be a Muslim connection.

  • JohnT.

    Terrorists are so dumb.
    You can mail your suspicious packages to synagogues in Israel (instead of the U.S.) and save on shipping charges.
    Stick to your dumb terrorist game plan: shoe bombs and underwear bombs.
    If you must improvise, use hearing-aid bombs and Preparation-H suppository bombs.

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